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Romney's Grandchild

Romney's Grandchild

We all yearn to belong. And it takes so very little to make someone feel that they don’t.


It happened on a train into Manhattan. I was sitting with my children in a cluster of seats facing each other. The girls were making bracelets out of rubber bands, and the boys were on my lap, looking at pictures on my phone. An older woman sitting across from us periodically glanced over and smiled. As we were about to go into the tunnel to Grand Central, she seemed to be staring at my youngest daughter.

"I can tell that one's not yours," she said loudly enough for all my daughters to look up from their bracelets.

A moment of indignant anger flashed through me. All of my children happened to have my blonde hair except for my one, beautiful daughter who has my husband's black hair and chocolate brown eyes.

"They're all mine. She has my husband's hair," I managed with a smile.

The woman gasped and whispered, "Oh, I'm sorry. I just thought..."

I could tell that she didn't believe me. But why did it matter? I glanced sideways at the girls who had gone back to their bracelets and were whispering to each other. I hoped my daughter didn't feel insulted. I could remember the awful sinking feeling I had at one of the first family gatherings after my marriage. A distant relative wandered over and casually remarked, "I can tell that you're one of the ones that married into the family. You stick out from a mile away. Welcome." I half smiled and scanned the room desperately for my husband. How could he say that to me? Didn't he know how badly I wanted to belong to my newly acquired family? Why did he need to make me feel like I didn't belong?

We’re all created with a searing sense of loneliness, yearning to belong.

As we got off the train, I gathered my children and zigzagged through the mob of people. I kept thinking of the expression: all alone in a crowded room. And I thought how we are all created with this searing sense of loneliness that comes with knowing that we are separate, unique individuals. But we are meant to recognize that on the deepest of levels, we are essentially interconnected with each other. But like the thousands of genes that connect me to my daughter who looks nothing like me, we often can't see the invisible strings that join everything and everyone in creation. At the core of loneliness, there is a hidden sense of belonging, waiting to rise to the surface. But we need each other to bring it out. Sometimes we even need a stranger to look at us and say: You belong.

This is perhaps why there was such a stir created when MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry laughed at Romney's adopted, black grandson sitting among the rest of his blonde haired brood. Harris quickly apologized for her mocking comment of "one of these things is not like the other" when she showed the Romney family portrait. Romney appeared on Fox News and officially accepted the apology, saying: "I recognize that people make mistakes and the folks at MSNBC made a big mistake. They've apologized for it. That's all you can ask for. I am going to move on from that. I am sure they want to move on from it."

I thought about this tiny baby who had briefly become the center of a heated controversy. And I thought about how this may be the first in many future struggles for him to feel that sense of "belonging" that all children innately crave. But it also made me realize how exquisitely sensitive the human soul is. All it takes is a mocking gesture or a thoughtless joke or a sideways glance to break that sense of connectivity that joins us all. We can apologize and say there was no hurt intended, but there is damage left behind. A sense of belonging is a painstaking process that most of us must spend a lifetime building and nurturing. And it’s so easy to shatter.

The smallest words and gestures can make a person feel lonely in a crowded room. But a warm smile and a genuine greeting can also help a stranger feel like he is at home. Each word, each smile, each gesture can be a move towards change and kindness, or towards stagnancy and separation. And every choice we make as individuals resonates with humanity as a whole. From one heart to another, each day we can reach out in a myriad of ways and say: I can see that you belong.

January 5, 2014

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Visitor Comments: 33

(31) Anonymous, January 9, 2014 1:23 PM

I'm Sphardic and Bukharian, I go to a Bukharian school and I have an Ashkanaz friend (her mother is Persian though) that goes to my school and people always think I'm Ashkanaz and she's Sphardi

(30) Anonymous, January 9, 2014 10:48 AM

From a misfit.

Thank you so much for your article. I enjoyed reading it very much.

Some people ask,"why do you want to convert? Stay as you are. G-d will accept you.You don't have to be a Jew to be accepted by G-d."

I really had no idea how much my life would change when I began studying the Torah.

I felt obligated to G-d for "giving me my heart's desire," I wanted do something special to thank Him so I decided to studiy the Torah.The rest just took its natural course.

I am happy to be here. In fact I am proud to say that I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.
I believe that some things happen because G-d wants them to happen.

(29) MMORROWFARRELL, January 9, 2014 8:17 AM


My grandmother was of Russian Jewish descent, my mother Jewish and French and Cherokee, my father Irish, English, French and Seneca. My husband is African-American, Jewish, Cherokee, French and English. So what does that make my children? Confused? Outsiders? Or as my daughter's new Jewish father-in-law called her, "exotic". No matter what words we choose, it usually comes out wrong. As my father, a translator of 28 languages taught me, "The sweetest sound in any language to anyone is the sound of their own name."

(28) Chan Drivvegeh, January 9, 2014 3:57 AM

Stop making a big deal out of nothing

I have blond kids with green eyes, dark with green, light dark skin, and oine kid who anyone would swear is a full-blooded Moroccan. It's a cute conversation-starter...I joke about how we want to try all the flavors, how we just need a redhead to complete the cycle, and everyone moves on.
Don' make a fuss out of something so small, where even if someone makes a comment, u can easily turn it into a cute conversation.

(27) Sandra, January 8, 2014 4:23 PM

I look like me......

Sometimes people don't mean to be inconsiderate in their ignorance.. they "never really understood
Mom/Dad who said, "don't stare, point or make polite, considerate and listen..YOU will learn a lot, and maybe learn more than you need or want to know." Wise words, even when I had to learn the hard way. But one thing is sure.. When folks ask me if I resemble my Mom, Dad, or siblings, I learned to smile, and say, "Ummm. I think I resemble ME." And that is all of us really resemble. Even TWINS are different from each other, though they may allso resemble others along the way.
That we are all different is one of the gifts we were given. The impolite stuff and questions from others is a sign of not knowing that WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT.--well, that is what I think...but new ideas are always welcome ears re open, and I try to keep my mind open too.. as much as I can.

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